- Associated Press - Friday, November 16, 2018

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Three different operators have plans to take over north Mississippi hospitals from bankrupt operator Curae Health, which could guarantee all three stay open despite an earlier threat to close one.

Curae, based in Knoxville, Tennessee, bought hospitals in Amory, Batesville and Clarksdale from Community Health Services in 2017. The company filed for bankruptcy in August, saying revenues declined and expenses outpaced expectations, leaving it unable to pay $96 million in debts.

Coahoma County Supervisor Paul Pearson said his county has reached an agreement for Community Health Services to take back Northwest Mississippi Medical Center in Clarksdale and run it for a year while the county seeks a long-term owner. As part of the deal, the county is paying a month of payroll for the hospital at a cost of about $2.5 million before Community Health Services takes over on Dec. 10. The county, which owns the hospital and leases it for $500,000 a year, is taking the money from a hospital reserve fund.

Curae last month had asked a bankruptcy judge in Nashville, Tennessee, to allow it to close the hospital and lay off 484 employees. Curae said the Clarksdale hospital was losing so much money that it could pull down the company before it could sell the other two medical facilities. Curae is handing over the hospital at no cost.

Meanwhile, the operator of a Holly Springs hospital has emerged as the front-runner to purchase Panola Medical Center in Batesville. Dr. Kenneth Williams, who owns the company that leases 24-bed Alliance Hospital from Marshall County, has created a new company to buy the Batesville hospital. Progressive Medical Management of Batesville is offering $2.5 million for the 112-bed acute care hospital and a 57-bed psychiatric unit as a stalking horse bidder. Curae awaits approval for a Dec. 14 auction when others could seek to bid more.

Williams citing his long experience in Holly Springs with running a small-town hospital.

“We know how to run and manage a hospital in difficult circumstances,” he said.

The Batesville hospital is significantly larger and offers a wider range of services than Alliance does.

“We’re not getting into this to start cutting services,” Williams said. “We have the idea to add.”

Progressive Medical Management of Batesville would own the Panola hospital outright. Williams and Oxford lawyer Quinton Whitwell both have ownership stakes in the new company. They say there will likely be other partners.

Finally North Mississippi Health Services said this week that it expects to complete the purchase of a Gilmore Memorial Hospital in Amory. No other bidders emerged to compete against the Tupelo-based hospital system. The initial stalking horse bid was at least $10.5 million in cash. Elsewhere in court papers, though, Curae says North Mississippi will pay $15 million, subject to certain adjustments up and down. North Mississippi spokeswoman Marsha Tapscott declined to clarify the purchase price. She said the court is supposed to approve North Mississippi’s purchase on November 27, with the sale to close by year’s end.


Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy .

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